Hackers have targeted government websites in India with malware in order to conduct illicit cryptocurrency mining.
The government of India has a contentious relationship with cryptocurrency. Currently, the country’s Supreme Court is working to come up with a verdict in the ongoing dispute between exchanges and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), which had ordered that all banks and financial institutions have no dealings with crypto exchanges or traders. Yet the government is an active, albeit unknowing, participant in cryptocurrency mining, although such a situation has only recently come to light.
Government Websites Hacked
Shakil Ahmed, Anish Sarma, and Indrajeet Bhuyan are three security researchers who have combed through government websites. They found that hundreds of government websites in India have been compromised with cryptojacking malware and are being used for crypto mining.
The researches started with AP government websites due to the fact that they receive 1.6 million visitors a month. Security researcher Indrajeet Bhuyan notes:
Hackers target government websites for mining cryptocurrency because those websites get high traffic and mostly people trust them. Earlier, we saw a lot of government websites getting defaced (hacked). Now, injecting cryptojackers is more fashionable as the hacker can make money.
The security researchers notified one chief minister about their findings. Yet they found that the sites were still running the malware a week later.
Cryptojacking in India
The team of researchers found that the cryptojacking malware affected more than government websites. More than 119 public websites have also been found to be compromised. A popular choice for the malware is Coinhive, which is normally used to mine Monero.
In fact, cryptojacking is becoming so prevalent that India comes in at number two in countries with internet-connected devices being hijacked for illicit crypto mining. The country, with its ‘s 13,500 infected home routers, only lags behind Brazil for the dubious distinction.
Rajesh Maurya, regional vice-president of Fortinet, says:
Crypto mining activity is becoming a very big business in India. This technology is most effective on illegal video-streaming websites where people stay for hours watching movies or TV series.
Fortinet recently released a report that found cryptojacking to be an expanding enterprise. They found that 13 percent of all organizations in the fourth quarter of 2013 were infected by cryptojacking malware. The percentage jumped up to 28 percent of companies in the first quarter of 2018.
One would expect that crypto mining malware is here to stay. While Google and other app stores have banned apps that feature any kind of cryptocurrency mining, cryptojacking will likely continue to rise. Hackers can easily slip the script onto websites and begin generating revenue that is instantly transferred anywhere in the world. Such ease of use, profits, and lack of any real consequences will ensure that such hacking will not stop, or even slow down, any time soon.
Author: Jeffrey Francis